Soul searching

Posted on 09 Aug 2013 at 8:30am

Eric Himan reinvents himself (again) with a funky, neo-soul vibe on his new CD, ‘Gracefully’

Eric-Himan-and-the-Soultre-Singers

SOUL SISTERS | Eric Himan teams with back-up duo Soultré Sisters on his new album and tour. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Charles)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 11.27.51 AMI’m not constantly trying to reinvent myself,” Eric Himan declares. But even if he’s not trying to, it’s what he seems to do.

Himan might disagree, seeing each new phase of his career, each new album, as a natural progression. But even he would concede that working on his latest album, Gracefully — which came out just last week, and for which he kicks off his national tour in Dallas Aug. 17 — marked an evolution in his way of working.

It’s only logical that it would. Himan has been at the music game for 12 years, spreading his rockabilly influenced sound. A few years ago, he teamed up with a brother and sister act — calling themselves Eric Himan and the Adams — and added an electrified edge to his typically acoustic-laden songs.

He split with the Adams in 2011. Then last year, Himan married his husband Ryan (they just celebrated their first anniversary) and simultaneously launched an online fundraising campaign to finance a new CD.

“We raised $16,000, and I started [recording] in October,” Himan says. “It had more of a rock approach, but it didn’t feel refined to me —  it was like I was giving away demos.”

That’s when he did something the old Eric never would have: He began again from scratch.

“I’m the kind of guy who typically says, ‘Let’s make the best with what we have.’ So it was hard for me to start over,” he says.

Through a series of lucky breaks, Himan got a new producer who booked him into the famed Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles. “This was the studio where they recorded ‘We Are the World,’” Himan says, still as much a fan of music as a maker of it. “We were recording with, basically, Alanis Morissette’s band.

There are four [bays in the facility]. That week, it was me, the Goo Goo Dolls, the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber, who I kept bumping into.” One day, Chaka Khan barged into Himan’s studio and asked to commandeer it for just a few minutes. He was delighted to accommodate her.

But even that didn’t give him what he wanted. The sound wasn’t there. Yet.

“It was too rock-oriented. It broke my heart [to walk away], but I came back to Tulsa,” he says. And that’s when things finally started to come together.

“I hooked up with Leon Russell’s drummer [Brandon], and once I started recording with him, everything changed,” Himan says. “No one ‘got’ me the way

Brandon did. I was overwhelmed. I wanted that Bill Withers, Earth Wind & Fire [vibe], or Richie Havens; Richie Havens was my first album I bought. He was ridiculous — acoustic but soulful.” The album that proceeded in fits and starts for six months was quickly falling into place.

“It was working up with people who got it,” Himan says — the core of what he’s always wanted to do.

You can sense Russell’s influences on the album, which combines elements of ’70s neo-soul and Southern funk with a pop-country crossover appeal. It’s eclectic but addictively good and radio-friendly.

“Suddenly, this album I was trying to squeeze out quickly but was taking a year came together in just the last two months,” he says. Himan even got to open for

Russell in concert recently, a personal highlight of the experience.

“If you said to me [before I started], ‘Here’s the road you’ll have to take in order to reach the end,’ I don’t think I would have taken that road. But the experiences that led to this CD are why it ended up the way it did,” he says.

Himan is sharing the experience with his backup singers, who are billed as the Soultré Sisters and add depth to his songs while reinforcing the sound he’s aiming for.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2013.

For economic reasons, “I had the opportunity to bring either a drummer and a bassist or the girls; I had to bring the girls,” he says. “They have this amazing gift to add to the music without any equipment. It makes for an interesting ‘evening with’ thing.”
And rising to the level where Himan is worthy of “an evening with” title is kind of the point.
“I love Ani DiFranco, Leon Russell — I think consistency is what those artists possess. Two of my favorite people are Sade and Natalie Merchant: To me they are the best at doing what they do. They don’t placate or do any gimmicks. They are just artists. It’s not about people being a flash-in-the-pan or taking your clothes off. It’s about longevity and talent and being consistent about who you are. And this is where my heart is.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2013.

 

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